Editor's Note: Fear vs. Opportunity
“In 2010,” said Wilcox, “flexible displays will expand … and toward the end of the year, we will see the first full-color e-paper devices. In 8 to 10 years, color will get better and better,” he added, ultimately achieving a level suitable for viewing quality, full-color magazines.
Digital rights management (DRM) continues to present an obstacle, agreed the panelists. “DRM has to go away,” said Joe Wikert, general manager of the O’Reilly Technology Exchange division of O’Reilly Media Inc. He added that the industry needs to stop thinking of digital content as print books in digital form. “As long as we’re focused on bringing print to a digital format,” he says, “[that will be] an artificial ceiling we’re always going to be dealing with.” Instead, publishers should focus on the “great opportunities in video, linkage, etc.”
To better adapt to digital technology, publishers need to use the technology, said Wikert—get the Kindle, an iPhone, and get to know these devices and the opportunities they present. “Publishers have to find different ways to provide value to their customers,” he said.
The latest estimates, according to the panelists, suggest that: Amazon has sold about a half-million Kindles; there have been more than 1 million downloads of the Stanza application for the iPhone; and Sony has reported that it has sold more than 300,000 of its Readers.
“It’s moving very rapidly,” said Wilcox. “Within the next 12 to 18 months, 2 [percent] to 3 percent of American households will own a dedicated e-reader.” He projected that in 4 to 5 years, the market will “see … certainly double-digit market penetration.”
Wilcox anticipates that in the next 18 months or so, e-book sales will comprise 6 percent to 8 percent of book sales.
Also, e-readers will quickly begin to drop in price, he suggested: “In China, you will see e-book devices for $199 or less within the next 12 months.”